THIS MORNING on Facebook I shared a quotation that seemed appropriate for today:
‘If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.’ – Meister Eckhart
Meister Eckhart, the 14th century German theologian, philosopher and mystic, was referring to gratitude as a spiritual practice.
As chaplain to Liverpool YMCA, which provides 170 beds of high quality accommodation across the city to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, my role is to help the YMCA to maintain a Christian ethos by providing for the pastoral needs of service users, volunteers and staff, particularly to help service users understand more fully life’s events as they relate to their spiritual and emotional well-being.
One of the ways in which I do this is to help them explore what gives them hope, especially when times are tough.
A simple way to do this, rooted in ancient spiritual practice as well as modern positive psychology, is to ‘count your blessings’ – the little things each day we are grateful for.
To have A Handful Of Hope each day, take a few minutes at night or in the morning, cast your mind back over the day and count up to five things for which you are grateful, or things which gave you hope, energy, life. You might find it helpful to keep a notebook handy to write them down, so you can look back and see if you notice any patterns or changes over time. You might find it helpful to talk through what you notice with someone you trust.
Research in positive psychology has shown that if you do this each day for 21 days it has long-term benefits for the way we see ourselves and our future, and respond to the daily challenges we face. Even weekly reflection on this simple practice has been shown to be beneficial. To find out how to make a habit of gratitude, and become a happier person, watch this short video (4 minutes 30 seconds) ‘Saying Thank You’ by positive psychologist Dr Tal Ben Shahar:
One of the inspirations for this spiritual practice from the Christian tradition is the Examen by Ignatius of Loyola. A beautifully simple book which explores how you can practice this in daily life is Sleeping with Bread: Holding What Gives You Life by Denis, Sheila and Matthew Linn.
I wrote this reflection on A Handful Of Hope for the ‘Quiet Space’ resource on the website of Mission In The Economy, a charity founded by Churches Together in the Merseyside Region, which provides chaplains in the workplace and community.